Emergency Response

COVID-19 Regional Communications

March 27, 2020 Update

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

To: Communities of Faith, Ministry Personnel, Board/Council Chairs and Regional Members

It seems like such a long time ago that I wrote the letter acknowledging that it was time to shut down our buildings and have our staff work from home, and yet that was only ten days ago.

Since that time many things have shifted. The messages from our health and government authorities have gotten stronger and we have all been asked to do our part to help plank the curve, to keep each other safe and to model good citizenship for our communities, our provinces, our country and our world.

I have such a deep sense of gratitude for our Ministry Personnel, our Communities of Faith’s governing bodies and our many staff both in local congregations and at the regional level. We have been and continue to be affected by this Pandemic.

Thank you to all the Ministry Personnel. I know how hard you are working to be present to your Communities of Faith in this very difficult time. I am aware of your tenacity, your resolve to find new ways of providing worship and connection, through social media and through a simple phone call, which means so much. I know that you are struggling when you have to say to a beloved family that the funeral of their loved one needs to be postponed, that you are sorry you are not permitted to visit them at home or in the hospital, or when you speak with a couple who are planning their marriage and ask them to consider changing the date. The feeling of helplessness in these situations is causing you so much extra stress and anxiety. I know your call to ministry is to be present for and with all God’s children and that has not waivered. I believe it has only been made stronger as you work hard to be the presence of Christ in ways you never knew possible.

Thank you to our Communities of Faith, your governing bodies, and volunteers for providing for your staff by allowing them to work from the safety of their home. You are also doing your part to be an example for the wider community. I have been hearing stories of Board members setting up phone trees and prayer chains. Communities of Faith checking in with the vulnerable and making sure they know they are not alone. I believe your call to support your staff and your congregants has also become your strength. Congregational members are also very concerned about the financial well-being of the Pastoral Charge and have found new ways to give. Thank you to everyone for doing your part in these most difficult times.

Thank you to our Regional Staff who are now working many overtime hours from their homes to make sure our congregations, committees, ministries and clergy have the information and the tools they need in these difficult times. Thank you as well to our General Council Staff, Moderator and General Secretary who, at the helm of our church, strive to keep us connected and informed.

We are truly blessed and upheld by each other and by a good, loving and ever-present God.

As we are fast approaching the first two weeks of closure and our March 30 date, we know we are not in a place to be able to open our churches or our offices. As this continues to go on, I know it is becoming more difficult. At this point, we will continue to be closed until the end of April and we will reassess at that time.

Thank you all for supporting this tough decision, adhering to the health and government authorities and keeping congregations and your staff safe.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Please avoid going into the church buildings at this time.
  • Please have one person designated to go in on a weekly basis and check on the building, the pipes and boilers etc.
  • When you do so, make sure you sanitize the door handles and the things you touch.
  • If you need to check the mailboxes at the church, please make sure you are safe in doing so.
  • If clergy wish to go into the building to record or livestream worship, it is permissible as long as it is a small group of 1-3 people. Again, make sure you sanitize anything you touch and make sure you are keeping the required distance apart.
  • If you are able to record your services from the safety of your home, all the better.

If your Community of Faith is having financial difficulty, please call your Regional or Executive Minister to discuss the options available for you. If you are considering temporary layoffs of any staff, it is important that you follow employment law as well as United Church policies and therefore it is imperative that you are in touch with your Regional Minister. Our General Council staff are working with employment specialists to guide us at this time and our Regional Ministers are being equipped with this information and hope to have it by early next week. It is our hope that it will not have to come to this. As we are hoping that, with government aids as well as help from Regional Councils and General Council, temporary layoffs will not be needed.

This has been a very different Lenten journey and it will be a very different Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I know you will all do your best to honour our Easter traditions in new, creative and safe ways. Despite everything that is happening in our world, we know God is our strength, and we live with the promise of resurrection hope.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

March 24, 2020 Update

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

Greetings to You from Your Regional Council Offices;

As the sand continues to shift under our feet we, as citizens and church members, are facing unprecedented circumstances. As our health and government authorities place more restrictions on us to keep us safe, we are learning to adjust. As we listen to the news about our world, our country, our provinces and our community, individual and community anxiety is very real. The disruption of our daily routines and our inability to meet in person as faith communities will further exacerbate our isolation and worry.

It has been wonderful to see the spirit at work helping us to be creative in meeting community needs, pastoral care, support and worship. Technology and telephone has allowed the gospel message of the unfailing and universal love of God to be heard at a time when it is most important.

While we do not know how long these measures will need to be in place, what we do know is that there is a growing need for pastoral care and support in these anxious times. The call for community pastoral leadership is immense.

On March 20, 2020, Communities of Faith received communication from Rev. Alan Hall, Executive Officer, Ministry and Employment, General Council Office, which recognizes that with in-person worship and rental income being suspended, Communities of Faith may be experiencing financial difficulty. In that letter, Communities of Faith are to be in touch with their Regional Council Office if having trouble. (Letter from Alan Hall)

We do know that at this time, there are many families who are feeling the financial strain from the many businesses that have been forced to close and there are those who have experienced layoffs. We also know that as United Church people, we have been most generous in difficult times. This is an important time to encourage people to continue stewardship support and to assist them in that endeavour given that they are unable to be physically present with you to place their gifts in our traditional offering plates. Please see the following suggestions from our Atlantic Stewardship & Gifts Officer, Rev. Roger Janes:

  • Encourage members to sign up for Pre-Authorized Remittance. We suggest that churches edit the PAR form to have your information on it, making the form as simple as possible for folks to use. To speed things up, scan your completed PAR forms and email to Judith Gomes at jgomes@united-church.ca
  • Encourage members to continue their weekly givings through Canada Helps (canadahelps.org/en/). Every congregation already has a page on Canada Helps, and RIGHT NOW, people can go to the link and donate to the congregation. I encourage congregations to go on and edit their congregation’s area to make it pretty, inviting and compelling.
  • Encourage people to prepare post-dated monthly cheques and put them in the old fashioned mailbox.
  • Here is a great article by Lori Guenther Reesor on online giving for churches: Online Giving for Offline Churches
  • Encourage your congregation to use e-transfers. (Ask your treasurer to talk to the bank and make sure you are already doing electronic banking. If not, set it up so the treasurer accesses the account for statements and can make deposits through e-transfer. Persons can then log into their bank account, send the e-transfer to the treasurer who logs into the church’s account online or through their phone and deposits the money. The treasurer has a record of the email with the amount and the bank statement shows the deposit in the exact same amount, all is clear and audit compliant.)

Other options for these trying times: (Please be in contact with your Regional Minister and the Property Committee for necessary approvals in these options below)

  • Obtain or increase your line of credit
  • Secure a loan
  • Make an application for a low interest loan (if made possible from General Council and/or Regional Council and if your Community of Faith meets the criteria)
  • Access government funding support for any staff who continued on payroll (see Alan Hall’s letter)
  • Consider using funds set aside for another purpose. It is possible for a Community of Faith, who has internally restricted funds, to use them; example: property or manse funds. If your congregation needs to use internally restricted funds, you will to need seek approval and structure it as an internal loan, with amount owing to the fund and a plan to pay it back when things return to normal.
  • Make sure your Trustees understand the status of any possible investments that may be needed in the short term for emergent ministry.

There are many types of restricted funds. Some have internal restrictions and therefore as a Community of Faith, we can choose to use them differently as needs or opportunities arise as long as we follow the appropriate consultation and procedures.

Some funds are formally restricted and we need to be careful to understand the difference. If you have donor-designated bequests, these normally have explicit instruction and are not to be used. Cemetery funds cannot be redirected if governed under the Cemeteries Act of your province.

If all options are exhausted and you find that you have no other choice but to move into a temporary layoff for your employees, it is imperative that you are in consultation with your Regional Minister and Pastoral Relations Committee. The General Council is working through the process to follow if your Pastoral Charge finds itself in this unfortunate situation. As the Region and Communities of Faith are in a covenantal relationship, it is important that all Pastoral Charges are in touch with the Region to work thorough these difficult decisions, and, where necessary, acquire the appropriate approvals.

Funerals

There have been questions about funerals. You will soon be receiving a letter from the Moderator. In all cases, it is recommended that funerals be postponed so that the families can have the service they need and deserve when this pandemic has passed. In cases where there is a body to be buried, it is recommended that a graveside burial happen, with strict adherents to the numbers that the health and government authorities have dictated in you province or country (Bermuda).

We know there are challenges and we are here to work with you to do our very best to find solutions. We continue hold you, our faith communities and your pastoral leaders, in our prayers as we know you are offering your prayers for the entire country at this time.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council
Regional Council 15
The United Church of Canada

March 17, 2020 Update and Closing of Our Church Buildings

Message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Regional Executive Minister:

As acknowledged in all parts of health care systems both, federally and provincially, things are changing daily and sometimes hourly with COVID-19. Everyone at every level has the same objective to protect people and the church is no different.

Our objective is to protect the health and well-being of our Communities of Faith, its members, our volunteers, our ministry personnel, our staff and our wider communities. Another objective is to make sure that our Regions continue with its services and remain connected with one another.

I realize that as a United Church, we have a conciliar system and we allow the governing bodies of our local Communities of Faith to make their own decisions. Please know I continue to respect that. However, these are unprecedented times and I feel it calls for unprecedented actions. After hearing from our Prime Minister who asked us to “stay home” and in conversation with the Presidents of our three Regional Councils, I am advising that it is time to close our churches for public worship and gatherings from today, March 17, 2020, to March 30, 2020. The situation will be assessed and new communication will be circulated as we get closer to March 30.

I know there will be many questions and I assume one will be about funerals. I would ask that you speak with your local funeral home to find ways that will best serve the families at this time and at the same time protect each other.

General Council Office has advised their staff who work from the office and those deployed in the Regions to work from home. Therefore, as of March 18, 2020 all staff in our Regional Council Offices will be working from home. Please use the same email and phone numbers. For urgent matters, please do not hesitate to call Regional Executive Minister Rev. Faith March-MacCuish at 1-709-691-3524.

For our Ministry Personnel, I realize that for your Communities of Faith you are an essential worker, and you will continue to find ways for your ministry to happen. Where there are needs to provide pastoral care to very sick or dying members or neighbours in your communities, you will need to protect yourself and others by taking appropriate precautions. This will involve some difficult judgements but these are unusual times, and we are asking you to take precaution. Social distancing, as difficult as that will be, is necessary. Please refrain from shaking hands and hugging those who are sick and dying and their families, remember hand washing and use hand sanitizer.

I also know you will spend much time connecting with your members through telephone and other technology as well as finding new ways to worship. For some of us, it is perfecting old skills and for others, it is learning something new. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you and you are not alone.

For our Ministry Personnel: Each of our Regions will be having a Zoom meeting for Ministry Personnel at least once a week so that as ministers you are able to check in with the President and Regional Minister and with each other. An email will be sent to you from the Regional Ministers with details of your Regional Conversation.

For our Divisions and Committees: We ask that you have your meetings through conference call, Zoom or Adobe Connect. For Adobe Connect and Zoom, please be in contact with Jennifer Taylor. For conference call numbers, please be in touch with Leona Laundry.

For Communities of Faith: If you wish to make use of Zoom or conference call, please know we have made allowances for you to do that. We ask that you be in touch with Jennifer for Zoom and Leona for conference calls. This is to help you continue to have your Board meetings and any emergency meetings to assist you with decision-making.

Please note you will need to be patient. We have added three new Zoom accounts totaling six for our three regions to use. However, with the demand, we are asking that groups only use it for necessary work at this time. Please let Jennifer and Leona know how long your meeting will be and please keep to your allotted timeline as others may have meetings booked before and after you.

I know this is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone. As ministers are still working, they will remain on payroll. We are asking our Communities of Faith, Pastoral Charges and Congregations to continue to pay your lay employees where possible. It would be important for you to communicate with your members the different ways to continue to contribute financially. Two options are through Pre-Authorized Remittance or encourage members to continue their weekly givings through Canada Helps. Each congregation is already pre-loaded into the site, so there is no set up needed. The United Church of Canada has also provided some guidance for congregations in regards to employment. Please go to The United Church of Canada website for more information.

I have been reflecting on the Gospel reading from Matthew and Mark when Jesus was in the boat with the disciples and the storm came up suddenly. Remembering how scared the disciples were and how scary this Pandemic is for us and our world, I am reminded repeatedly that Jesus was in the boat! In the middle of the storm, he was with the disciples. Our faith reminds us that in the midst of this storm, Jesus is with us. We are not alone.

My prayer is that we not only remember that we are not alone but that we are able to help each other feel comforted and included as we are called into distancing and isolation. May the God of all peace give us calm minds and hearts as we are called to steer the boat. May those who are ill have healing mercies. May those who are on the front lines be protected. May those who have the heavy load of advising and making decisions be guided. May we all put kindness first and hold one another as precious children of God.

In Love,

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister

March 13, 2020

As our Moderator has said in a prayer posted March 13, 2020:
“When we aren’t sure, God, help us to be calm; when information comes from all sides, correct and not, help us discern; when fear makes it hard to breathe, and anxiety seems to be the portion of the day, slow us down, God; help us to reach out with our hearts, when we can’t touch with our hands; help us to be socially connected, when we have to be socially distant; help us to love as perfectly as we can, knowing that ‘perfect love casts out all fear’”.

The United Church of Canada is asking congregations to make their decisions based on the information from their local government and health authorities. We ask everyone to be actively engaged in protecting themselves and those around them.

Please refer to The United Church of Canada’s Emergency Plan to help you prepare for your responses. The World Health Organization as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, has upgraded the COVID-19 to a Pandemic Period. Therefore, we are looking at Phase 5/6 in the Appendix D of the Emergency Plan. We all need to be paying close attention to the provincial and federal health authorities, as they are the health care professionals.

We have attached the link to the Provincial and Federal websites to help you in your decision-making.

This may be the time to implement:

• No contact versions of sharing the peace
• Refrain from shaking hands as you leave worship (find non-contact ways to acknowledge one another)
• Consider postponing coffee hour or community meals
• Reduced or no passing of the collection plate (have the plates laid somewhere in the church, have your counters wash hands before and after counting money)
• Encourage people to continue their weekly givings through cheques or online through Canada Helps that has every congregation pre-loaded and will forward your donation
• Have the communion symbols and liturgy without the taking of the elements
• Remind parishioners and church leaders if sick to avoid coming to church
• Remind parishioners and church leaders to have increased hygiene
• Have hand sanitizers available and visible
• Have the church cleaned more often, “particularly high touch areas such as the books, tops of the pews and door handles.” ( e.g. after every gathering, Sunday school and nursery)
• Limit pastoral and community activities (as per your health authorities advice)
• If the public health authorities recommends closing our churches for a period, be prepared to have a worship service through social media and ways to communicate and offer prayer

If you have questions or need to be in touch, please do not hesitate to call Regional Executive Minister Rev. Faith March-MacCuish at 1-709-691-3524.

Please see Quick Links for sharing as much information as we can. A lot of this advice can be very beneficial as we plan our daily routine within our communities of faith.

Any questions, please contact the Leona Laundry at 1-800-268-3781 ext. 6141 or llaundry@united-church.ca

Blessings as we all live into the confusion of what this means for all of us.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council

March 6, 2020

Emergency Plan to Assist Regions and Congregations be Prepared in the Event of a Health Emergency

A message from Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, Executive Minister, First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council. This information has been distributed to Ministers, Divisions, Teams, and Official Members to Regional Council and Pastoral Charge liaisons as identified by General Council for this Region.

Congregational Members,

The United Church of Canada has updated its emergency plan to assist Regions and Congregations to be prepared in the event of a health emergency. This is not meant to cause fear but to help us be prepared, and we ask that you review the The United Church of Canada Emergency Plan (Rev. March 2020). Guidelines for Communities of Faith start on page 10 of this document.

The Executive Minister, Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, is the primary conduit of information between the General Council, the Committees and the Communities of Faith. The Emergency Coordinator for First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council Office is Leona Laundry and she will be the person who will send out communication to the Region. If you have any questions, please be in touch with Rev. Faith March-MacCuish by email or call 1-800-268-3781, ext. 6156.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
Executive Minister
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council

Regional Executive Minister

Regional Executive Minister, Rev. Faith March-MacCuish, is the primary conduit of information between the General Council, the Divisions and the Communities of Faith. If you have any questions or need to be in touch, please do not hesitate to contact Rev. Faith March-MacCuish.

Rev. Faith March-MacCuish
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Phone: 1-800-268-3781 | Ext. 6156
Emergency Cell: 709-691-3524
Email: fmaccuish@united-church.ca

Emergency Coordinator

Emergency Coordinator for First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council Office is Leona Laundry and she will be the person who will send out communication to the Region.

Leona Laundry
First Dawn Eastern Edge Regional Council
Phone: 1-800-268-3781 | Ext. 6141
Email: llaundry@united-church.ca